Reflections for the Body and Blood of Christ Why go to Church?
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Many people today, especially young people, say that they believe in God and are on a spiritual quest, but that they do not need an organized religion to help them.
Sunday’s Readings will make the question especially poignant. To put it in the worst light, why would you Catholics go each week to receive a flat, tasteless wafer called a “host,” and perhaps a small sip of wine? It seems like a lot of trouble, and would appear to have very little to do with the spiritual quest. As Catholics we answer that the host is no longer “bread” but has undergone a
“transubstantiation.” In simple words, even though it has the appearance of an unexciting piece of bread, its substance has been transformed from that of bread to that of Christ’s body. The same goes for the wine and his blood.
The people who do not believe in church might reply, “God and spirituality are something interior, something private. If the point is that we should help each other, why can’t we do it without all the paraphernalia, without all this ‘body and blood’ business?”
Let us attempt an answer. Christian, Catholic beliefs are a direct result of what we believe about Jesus.
(1) He is the speaking-out of God’s love. He and the Father are one and the scriptures attest to this.
(2) Jesus died on the cross in a showdown between goodness and the forces of selfishness and greed.
(3) Evil won, but at his depths, Christ was deeper than evil. He was made of something stronger than either life or death. This something endured even though he was dead and buried. What was it? Love. Not love as a feeling, but as a dynamic. Love founded the life of Jesus, since he was the direct expression of God, who is love. Jesus emerged from the tomb because he was rooted in love. (4) Then he ascended into heaven—apparently leaving us behind without him. But he sent the Holy Spirit into the hearts of those who believe, so that he would still be present to us. Pentecost was the full expression of this fact.
Fine so far. Our churchless brothers and sisters might agree. The Holy Spirit of God dwells deep in the wordless depths of a person.
You have proved our point. We do not need ceremonies and ritual. Uh oh. Maybe they are right!
Not quite. Think of it this way. When you are hungry and you want, say, a juicy hamburger, does remembering the burger you ate last week do the job? How about picturing it in your mind? Since your hunger is internal, it should stay there, with no answer in the material world, should it not?
Nonsense. We human beings do have an inside and it is very important, but we have an outside too. We are not built to just stay within ourselves but instead to let our spirits walk, play, and even suffer in the material world. The Holy Spirit’s presence at the depths of our being makes us desire to find Jesus with our eyes, ears, nose, tongue and hands.
And that is why we go to Church. In order to find the answer to our Spiritual quest in the fleshly presence of Christ. At Mass, which is a ritual, we find that presence given to our senses in Communion, and it fulfils our spiritual and physical yearning.
Are you hungry for Christ? Come and eat. You are what you eat, you know.
Fr John Foley SJ
Last Modified on Sat 6th Jun 2015 22:37:43